Transitioning Someone to a New Role

Tom Carden

Senior Engineering Manager at Square



"A year and a half ago, I was preparing to transition to a new role, and I needed to find someone to take on my previous role and to manage my team of ten members. One of my team's members was a strong technical leader but had not worked in a people management role before. Before transitioning to my new role, I needed to feel confident that somebody would be able to manage the team effectively."

Actions taken

"Initially, I let him manage half of the team and provided him with some coaching about the responsibilities of people management, as this is a critical part of being a good technical leader. I also started to delegate more tasks to him and let him talk on behalf of the team more." "In the process of transitioning the team's technical lead into people management, his performance as a technical lead improved. I already thought he was doing a good job, but when he became responsible and accountable for the team's commitments and performance he got a lot better at keeping them focused and prioritizing the highest impact work." "This enthusiasm and commitment was then passed onto the team. This experience made him a better technical leader, as he was talking with the team much more. He was able to manage the team more effectively and this, in turn, helped to improve the team's overall technical execution." "When the time came for me to let him manage the whole team, he was ready to take full responsibility and ownership of the team, talk on behalf of them more confidently, take more risks, and put in more commitment in terms of the team's projects. This also helped to improve his technical leadership."

Lessons learned

"On reflection, the way I had divided up responsibilities as manager and tech lead had only given him half the job. In future when working with a technical lead I would find ways to help them take more responsibilities for team performance, and to be accountable directly for the team's commitments. The key to getting people to take complete responsibility for a new role is to empower them by delegating more tasks to them and letting them participate in meetings so they become more involved. Let them take the lead, make more commitments and take more risks, and represent the team more. They will then assume complete ownership of the team and will strive to protect the reputation of the team. When they embody the team and represent it fully then they are responsible for making the right trade-offs to keep the team accountable for its commitments." "The challenge with having separate technical leads and people managers is to make sure you're sharing enough responsibility to help the tech lead effectively prioritize, and holding them accountable for the team's success to ensure they're making the right calls."

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Tom Carden

Senior Engineering Manager at Square

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsMentorship ProgramsPerformance Reviews

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